When Australia’s biggest hopes are in action
7 February 2014
TEAM: Australia’s biggest ever Winter Olympics Team is aiming for a record medal haul at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
The Team is aiming for four to five medals and a finish in the top 15 nations on the overall medal table. Australian athletes have medalled at every Winter Olympics since 1994 and Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman says that the fifth Team he is leading is by far the best credentialed.
Australia’s best medal tally at the Winter Olympics is two gold and one silver won in Vancouver in 2010, with Lydia Lassila winning the Aerials, Torah Bright’s gold in Halfpipe and a silver to Dale Begg-Smith in Moguls.
All three are in the medal hunt again and backed by a sensational depth of talent across a range of disciplines.
So what days are Australians most likely to be in with a shot at the podium?
Day 2 – Sunday 9 February
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle – (Final 2015 AEST)
Queen Extreme Bright kicks off her Olympic campaign with the event she won bronze at the 2013 World Championships. She has been training well and her ability to deliver on the big stage could make all the difference. A top performance here will lift the confidence of the 27-year-old for her favoured Halfpipe defence.
Day 3 – Monday 10 February
Men’s Moguls – (Final 0500 AEST, Tuesday)
Australia has the maximum four skiers in this event and Australia’s most successful winter Olympian Dale Begg-Smith will inspire his younger teammates. The freestyle skier took three years away from competition, but is back to try and add another medal to his gold from Torino in 2006 and silver from Vancouver in 2010. He will be going all out to challenge two Canadians who have dominated the event for the past four years.
Matt Graham, Brodie Summers and Sam Hall are all capable of stepping out of their idol’s shadow.
Day 4 – Tuesday 11 February
Women’s Freestyle Skiing Slopestyle- (Final 2000 AEST)
27-year-old Anna Segal will make her Olympic debut chasing a medal in the Slopestyle.
Despite coming into the Team under an injury cloud and subject to a medical clearance, the Victorian heads in to the competition knowing she has tricks to finish on the podium. The 2011 World Champion has learnt to deal with injury and believes she has the experience and improved mental strength.
Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe – (Final 0430 AEST, Wednesday)
After missing out on the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics when he suffered an ankle injury during a training session two weeks out, Nate Johnstone will make his debut in Sochi in the Snowboard Halfpipe.
The 23-year-old is also a former world champion from 2011 and in peak physical form after an Achilles injury impacted the start of his season.
He’ll be hoping for a smooth ride up against the other Australians, 18-year-old Kent Callister and close friend and rival Scotty James.
Day 5 – Wednesday 12 February
Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe- (Final 0430 AEST, Thursday)
Contesting three events in Sochi, Australia will be hoping Bright will be able to tame the pipe in this her strongest event at her third Olympics.
The reigning Olympic Halfpipe champion will be joined in Aussie colours by 29-year-old Holly Crawford. Sochi is her third Games and the 2011 World Champion comes to Sochi with unfinished Olympic business.
Day 6 – Thursday 13 February
Men’s Freestyle Skiing Slopestyle - (Final 2030 AEST)
After top form on the rails and jumps of Slopestyle courses all season, Russ Henshaw’s successful season stalled head first at the X Games two weeks ago.
The skier from Jindabyne in the Australian Snowy Mountains hasn’t competed extensively in the pre-Olympic season, but is aiming for a podium finish in the event at Sochi.
Day 7 – Friday 14 February
Women’s Freestyle Skiing Aerials- (Final 0430 AEST, Saturday)
As the reigning Olympic champion, aerialist Lydia Lassila has high hopes of returning with gold a second time.
After returning to competition in late 2012 after having a baby boy after her Vancouver 2010 success, Lassila has had a stellar 2013/14 season with a gold and silver from five World Cups.
Australia will be hoping Lassila lands her qualification jump and progresses to the finals, with history showing she has reached the podium every time if that happens.
The 32-year-old will be up against fierce friendly competition from her Australian teammates Laura Peel, Danielle Scott and Samantha Wells. Scott will also fancy her chances for an upset as a bronze medallist at the 2013 World Championships and World Cup silver medallist. Wells was also sixth at the World Championships.
Day 10 – Monday 17 February
Men’s Snowboard Cross- (Final 2030 AEST)
After winning the World Championships and World Cup title in both 2011 and 2013, a feat unmatched by any other Australian in any winter sport, Alex “Chumpy” Pullin comes into Sochi with expectations of a strong Olympic campaign.
The Australian Team flagbearer’s 2012/13 season was an outstanding one for Pullin, with seven finals appearances and four podiums from seven races.
After starting on the international circuit at the age of 15, Sochi will be the 26-year-old’s second Olympics. Sydney 18-year-old Jarryd Hughes is in sensational form having won the Lake Louise World Cup in late 2013.
Men’s Freestyle Skiing Aerials- (Final 0430 AEST, Tuesday)
After just missing the Aerial finals at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, David Morris is a strong chance to head home from Sochi with a medal.
Morris became the first Australian to win an aerial skiing gold with his first World Cup win in Ukraine last year.
The 29-year-old from Melbourne finished the 2012/13 season ranked number two in the world and heads into Sochi a highly fancied medal favourite.
There are many other Australians who are capable of making finals who have medalled at World Championships or World Cups and are aiming for a podium at Sochi 2014. This is why this is Australia’s best credentialed Australian Olympic Winter Team.
What is certain is that all 60 members of the Team will be giving their best and looking to perform at their best for the biggest competition of their careers.